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Nuclear debate

February 15, 2010

Germany's embattled environment minister has thrown his weight behind shutting down the country's nuclear reactors. Norbert Roettgen said he'd stick to an agreement that would see two power plants close in coming months.

Isar power station
Two power stations are to be shut down this yearImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen has rejected calls to immediately extend the operating lifetimes of nuclear power plants.

Roettgen said in a newspaper interview that he would not intervene to delay closure dates for reactors in coming months.

He told the weekly Tagesspiegel am Sonntag that new policy on energy plant life-spans would be decided in autumn, when the government coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Free Democrats (FDP) would discuss its energy policy.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen
Roettgen wants to adhere to existing policyImage: AP

In the meantime, the CDU minister said, current energy policy would dictate the fate of nuclear power stations set for closure.

Plants set for closure

According to present rules, the Neckarwestheim power plant is set to shutdown in May. The Biblis A nuclear plant in Hesse is earmarked for closure in summer.

"The operation of individual nuclear power stations will be decided on the basis of current law," said Roettgen.

He added that nuclear power was intended only to be an interim measure until demand can be met from renewable sources.

"We have defined nuclear energy as a 'bridge technology.' The bridge ends when renewable energies can reliably replace nuclear energy."

"When we have a goal before our eyes we can achieve it quickly," he added.

More pragmatic approach

At the same time, German Economic Minister Rainer Bruederle warned against "ideological rash reactions" and hinted at a more pragmatic approach.

Reactor rods at Philippsburg
Bruederle said that solid facts were needed to decide on an approachImage: picture alliance/dpa

The FDP minister told German weekly Bild am Sonntag that solid facts should shape future policy and that millions would need to be invested in renewable energy.

"If we don't want electricity prices to go through the roof, we must build a bridge to the renewable age. For the coalition this bridge is, along with the use of clean coal, nuclear energy."

But, Bruederle added, "One thing is clear. Nobody wants new nuclear power stations in Germany."

Possibility of extension

While Roettgen has said that plant life-spans could feasibly be expanded by eight years, his party colleagues in three states have called for a far longer stay of execution.

Conservative regional environment ministers Markus Soeder from Bavaria, Tanya Goeder from Baden-Wuerttemberg and Silke Lautenschlaeger from Hesse advocate a further 20 years on top of Roettgen's suggestion.

The three represent German states with nuclear power plants and argue that renewable energy will not be ready to replace atomic power in time to realize Roettgen's proposal.

Editor: Nancy Isenson